Environmental ethics and the use of fixed anchors in wilderness areas
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Environmental Ethics and the Use of Fixed Anchors in Wilderness Areas. Agata Czerminska. Fixed Anchors. Rock Climbing Nylon slings, Metal bolts and pitons Pounded or drilled into cliff. The Bolting War. Can climbers legally place anchor bolts in federally designated wilderness areas?.

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Environmental Ethics and the Use of Fixed Anchors in Wilderness Areas

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Environmental ethics and the use of fixed anchors in wilderness areas

Environmental Ethics and the Use of Fixed Anchors in Wilderness Areas

Agata Czerminska


Fixed anchors

Fixed Anchors

  • Rock Climbing

  • Nylon slings, Metal bolts and pitons

  • Pounded or drilled into cliff


The bolting war

The Bolting War

Can climbers legally place anchor bolts in federally designated wilderness areas?


The battle erupts

The Battle Erupts

  • 1997: Anchors banned in Sawtooth Wilderness Area in Idaho

  • June 1998: Ban extended to include all wilderness areas

  • Fierce opposition from climbing groups

  • August 1998: Ban repealed


Negotiated rulemaking

Negotiated Rulemaking

  • Fixed Anchors in Wilderness Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee met on four separate occasions through the summer of 2000

  • Committee comprised of 21 representatives from organizations such as Wilderness Watch (anti-bolt) and the Access Fund (very pro-bolt)


Interpreting the wilderness act

Interpreting the Wilderness Act

Access Fund:

  • Fixed anchor ban contradicts the Wilderness Act’s provision to provide for primitive and unconfined types of recreation

  • Climbing is a legitimate use of public lands and permanent fixed anchors must sometimes be used to ensure climbing safety


Interpreting the wilderness act1

Interpreting the Wilderness Act

Wilderness Watch:

  • Fixed anchors are permanent installations as defined by the Wilderness Act and therefore violate the act

  • Bolts would open the hills to mountain bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles


After a decade of war in the hills environmentalists and rock rats draft a treaty

“After a decade of war in the hills, environmentalists and rock rats draft a treaty”

But do they?


Neg reg results

Neg-Reg Results

  • No consensus was reached


Ethical analysis

Ethical Analysis

  • Approach in the meetings:

    Deontological – contending parties discussed their different interpretations of the Wilderness Act


Key factors missing in debates

Key Factors Missing in Debates

  • The impacts of anchors on wildlife and biodiversity

  • Public opinion

  • The role rock climbing plays in local economies, which are tied to recreational use of public lands


Policy recommendations

Policy Recommendations

  • Comprehensive study on the effects of climbing on cliff habitats

  • Site specific regulations

  • In some situations: permits limiting number of climbers


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